Three day's journeying found the little group stopping for the night beside a small but rather deep pond, just a few meters off the road. Gourry, who aside from his quintessential Hikari no Ken also brought along a longbow, managed to shoot a deer, and thus they ate well that night. Lina and Zel also used small spells to smoke the meat and render it fit to be carried along on the journey. Gourry, Zel, Amelia and Sylphiel sat around the fire, talking quietly. Lina was some distance away, head bent with her uncle's as they both looked at one of the thick tomes Irik had brought with him. Of course, their topic of conversation was the new Lina Inverse.
"She's changed a lot," Zel muttered into his steaming cup of tea. Boiled with a handy-dandy mini-Flare Arrow, natch.
"I'll say. Now she's not so flat anymore," Gourry said, chewing on his supper. For once, he was wise enough – or maybe it was the fact his mouth was full – not to say it loud enough to attract the Wrath of Lina. However, his wife gave him a rather cold glare. Which Gourry, being Gourry, did not notice.
"I can't believe she'd settled down in one place for so long. Let alone in someplace as calm and non-chaotic as Alephis," mused Amelia. "With children!"
Ah, now they had come to the crux of the matter, the one change that the Slayers had most trouble wrapping their minds around. The concept of Lina as a mother.
"I wonder who the father is," Sylphiel said, voicing for the first time the question they all had. "You certainly can't see any hints of whoever Lina had children with from looking at the boys."
"Zelgadis-san," Amelia asked, "Did you see anyone else in Lina's townhouse when you went there?"
Zel shook his head. "No. I was only in the sitting room, but I didn't notice anyone in the house except for Lina, Kieros and Daylen. She hasn't mentioned anyone as a, um, partner…"
"Yes, didn't she say she'd be leaving them with an aunt or something?" Amelia put in, swallowing the last piece of bread on her plate.
"Still, they must have had a father," Sylphiel said practically. "And Lina-san doesn't seem like the type to casually have kids with a stranger. I think whoever the father is, Lina-san must have been very close to him…"
Zel absently sipped his tea, trying to picture Lina loving someone enough to have twins with him. It was hard. Not that Lina was a very cold person, or hard to love – she'd obviously really cared about her traveling companions, despite her propensity to blow them up. And he wasn't reaching at all if he'd said that Lina could charm anyone if she put her mind to it. But never had Lina shown…romantic interest.
"Maybe the guy had lots of money," offered Gourry.
"Gourry-san!" Amelia cried out in dismay. "What a horrible thing to say!"
"Lina'd marry a rich guy," Gourry insisted. "If he was rich enough."
Zel had to chuckle a little. "Yes, but don't her plans usually involve divorcing him before he has time to eat the wedding cake? Certainly not kids."
"Well, she is awful greedy…"
"FIREBALL!" And as in days of yore, Gourry's insulting of Lina Inverse was promptly replied to with offensive magic being applied to his poor battered self. The difference was that it hadn't been Lina who'd done it.
The party bolted to their feet. Zel drew his sword, the steely rasp of blade against scabbard loud against the suddenly quiet night. Sylphiel hurried to her husband's side.
Lina, as well as Irik, looked up sharply from the book they had been poring over. Unlike the others, however, the look in her eyes was less surprise and wariness than sheer exasperation.
She pointed her hand at one point of the forested brush near their campsite. Magic glowed briefly, and then a dark blur shot out from the brush towards Lina's outstretched hand, slowing to hover before the sorceress.
Zel lowered his sword, Sylphiel stopped her healing, and Amelia just stared at the two boys now hovering in the air before their exasperated mother.
"Who cast the Fireball?" she asked, hands on hips. Since her sons were hovering in the air, she could look straight ahead and look them in the eye. Staring at them as she was, she didn't quite notice how her companions goggled at the question.
'Who cast the…does she frigging mean to say that six-year-old children have the capability to spellcast?' was the thought of Amelia, Zel and Sylphiel – in slightly different terms, of course.
'Wow, they're really exactly like Lina!' was Gourry's thought.
One of the boys raised his hand. "I did, mommy," he confessed lowly.
The other, apparently determined not to be outdone, added, "I was casting a Flare Bit but then you stopped it."
Irik, still beside Lina, chuckled. "Yes, they're most definitely your sons, Lina."
"And for what possible reason would you be casting Fireball and Flare Bit when you are not supposed to cast Black Magic unless I'm with you or you're in danger?"
"He called you greedy, mommy!" cried one twin in indignation.
"He inculted you!" said the other, eyes sparking in filial fury.
Lina glanced back at the smoking form of Gourry, still lying full-length on the ground. "So you decided to avenge my honor for me. By the way, that's insulted, not inculted, Day." She sighed. "You shouldn't be doing this, tesh. For the first place, when people insult me, I can handle it myself. Secondly, this is Gourry. Remember what I told you about him? He's really too stupid to know any better, so you have to cut him some leeway when dealing with him."
"What's leeway?" asked one of her sons curiously.
"…just don't hurt him when he does it. He's too simple-minded to really be malicious. Okay?"
"Yes mommy," the two said in unison.
"Now that we're done with that…why are you two here? Wait," she said, "I know why. Okay, then – whose bright idea was it to follow me? And how did you do it?"
"We sort of came up with the idea at the same time," they said in unison again, giving credence to their claim of simultaneous thinking. "And then we used Raywing to catch up with you."
"Raywing? They know Raywing?" the startled words burst out of Amelia before she could stop them. The three redheads looked at her, and Lina answered, "Yes, and don't blame me – the twins broke into my study and 'borrowed' a bunch of spellbooks."
Irik broke into the conversation then. "Be that as it may, I think it's been established that Kieros and Daylen are here, that they don't take to being separated from their mother, and that they probably will follow her again. Won't you, boys?" he asked, and the twins inside the bubble nodded enthusiastically. "Besides, as it would take us some time to bring them back to Alephis, I propose we bring them along. I don't think we'll run into any extravagant danger until the final part of this. And if we do, these Inverse twins will be less likely than most children to fall prey, eh?"